Sunday, December 18, 2016

When There's No Answer At All

You may or may not believe this, but I hate writing about grief.

I know that sounds weird because I write about it a lot. But I don't write about things I'm not feeling so in order for me to write about grief, it's got to be something I'm experiencing in the moment.

And nobody likes that.

I don't know if more people die around the holidays or if it just seems that way because we're all trying hard to be so damn joyful. But after a losing a cousin and a friend in the last week, it just seems like Fate waits until we least expect it and then lets loose with a stream of cruelty.

I've been weepy today and I hate that. I've gotten pretty good at keeping that stuff in, but like my son (who is cool as a cucumber for weeks and then has a complete mental breakdown for 12 hours straight) I think I've hit my limit.

Now, I do feel as though I need to say that while I did know both this cousin and this friend, I do not claim to know them well. I can't stand it when the second someone dies it seems like people jump on the "I don't know how I can live without them" train when they haven't seen or talked to the person in years.

I'm not like that.

In fact, I feel like I go in the opposite direction. I see and hear so many things from loved ones who were close to the person who has passed and I feel as though I don't have a right to grieve for them because they might not have been a part of my everyday life.

But for right now...I'm going to forget that stupid notion. I'm sad and I have every right to be sad.

What I grieve the most is what's left behind. In my cousin's case, it's a young son, a husband, a huge network of family and friends and so many connections she had made through her organization Coming to the Table.

With my friend, who had endured so much grief in the last few years when both of her parents passed, I cry thinking of her family and the sisterhood of friendship that stood by her and comforted her.

I think about what's ahead on this road for them. Sadness. A new appreciation for those they have around them. Maybe life changes as they question their own path in the wake of what's happened. Days that will speed by and nights that seem endless. Laughter that feels amazing because it doesn't come as easily as it used to. And moments.


As we all know, it is an utterly helpless feeling watching those you care about grieve. In fact, I would say that if the answer of what to do immediately comes to's probably wrong. I know that sounds strange, but grief is so complicated for each person that there is just no right answer. It has to be carefully considered and completely thought through.

And sometimes there is no answer at all.


I don’t know why I went to her. I didn’t really know her. I didn’t even know what I wanted to talk about. But the second we walked into one of the Sunday school rooms, I’m very much afraid that I exploded on this woman who, up until that point, had been almost a complete stranger to me.

“Why? Why?” I screamed. “Why did this happen? We did everything right! I don’t know a better person than Brad. Why did this happen? What am I going to do? How am I going to live? Why would God do this to us? You have to tell me! Why?

Teri led me to one of the hard plastic chairs that surrounded the school tables. She sat down with me as the tears flowed down my face and took my hand in hers. Her face was so full of concern, watching someone suffer…someone who was desperate to find an answer that she knew may never come.

“I don’t know, sweetie. I couldn’t explain it when my husband died of cancer when my daughter was ten, and I can’t explain it to you now. All I can do is pray with you now. And if you’re not ready to do that, I’ll pray for you.”

For the first time, I really started to digest how I was not in control of anything in life. None of us are. I looked at this woman who seemed to be so disciplined and who appeared to have all of the answers every Sunday at church and realized that none of us are running the show here. 

It was as I was looking at Teri’s face, filled with pain and sympathy, that I began to discover that the question of “why” may be vitally important…but it would never be answered. Men and women have been going through what I was about to face since the beginning of time and have never been able to answer the question, “How could this have happened?” 

And even if they could, it wouldn’t ease the pain.

I could ask, “Why was my husband taken away from his children when they were just babies?” and even if I got an answer, it would still be incomprehensible.

I could ask, “Why did my husband have to leave me to deal with this all on my own?” and even if I got an answer, I would still be angry.

I could ask, “How could this happen to a man who was just so damn good?” 

And even if I got an answer, it wouldn’t stop what I was about to feel. 

He would still be gone.

Death makes no sense. Brad had survived his dangerous teenage years, driving too fast and constantly testing fate, only to die on his commute to work. I’ve had family friends who have spent years with someone who was the picture of health, only to be shocked by their sudden heart attack. I know people whose husbands have been diagnosed with very “curable” forms of cancer and have followed the doctor’s instructions down to the letter…only to lose them two years later after countless rounds of treatment and false hope.

Our husbands are dead and Keith Richards is still alive?

Um…hello? Is this thing on? 

Everything that I thought was a “sure thing” in my life had suddenly been ripped out from under me. I’d always thought that if Brad and I worked hard, loved each other, and were just generally good people, we would be rewarded by a long, happy, boring life together. Bad things were what happened to other people. Bad things lived in the abstract in my life and were never within reaching distance. And even if bad things were to happen to us, the one thing, THE ONE THING I was sure of in life was that Brad and I would get through it together.

But then “together” was the one thing that had been taken away.

And although I didn’t completely understand it as I was sitting in the Sunday school room of my church, tears streaming down my face, looking at a woman who was a virtual stranger, but one I was sure up until that moment had all of the answers…the question of “why” would become something that I would struggle with for years.

And then it would become something that I would eventually have to let go of.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Dear Melania: This is Cyberbullying

I know this is old news, but it still baffles me.

First, I have to admit that I'm a secret follower of Donald Trump on Twitter. I know, I know. I didn't actually commit to hitting the "follow" button, but I will occasionally get on there just to see what ludicrous thing he's managed to communicate in 140 characters or less. For accomplishing this feat, I have to give him props.

It's actually really hard to be that ridiculous using only about twenty words at a time.

Anyway, as we all know Melania Trump has decided to take on cyberbullying as her cause during her time as FLOTUS, a very noble ambition. But I, like millions of people around the world, have been asking myself this question over and over again.


I'm wondering if all of that gold in their apartment interferes with her wireless signal or something; maybe she doesn't have access to the internet and has no idea what her husband is up to? Or maybe cyberbullying means something different in her native tongue and she thinks she's ending the use of the Diner's Club credit card?

Actually, what I'd LIKE to think is happening is that she is being a little passive-aggressive (as all married people should be) and trying to point out The Donald's faults to him by putting it center stage rather than talking to him about it over a DiGiorno pizza and a glass of boxed wine (oh, wait. That's me).

I guess we'll know that's the case if after she solves cyberbullying she takes over the Hair Club for Men and works to reduce the amount of orange used in spray tans worldwide.

But if, for some reason, she IS actually taking on cyberbullying I'd like to assist her so she actually knows what it is when she sees it.


The use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending message of an intimidating or threatening nature. 

Now, when looking at Trump's Twitter account, it can be hard to narrow this down to only a few tweets. And this is just Twitter. I don't have time to go through everything he's said on the news or in the media in general. (And while this doesn't fall under the category of cyberbullying I'm sure the Army and Navy football players LOVED it when he said they weren't playing "real football" on CBS. I don't know if I'd want to piss off football players that are trained for combat, DT.)

Oh, Donald. Laugh and the world laughs with you. Didn't your mother teach you that? And while you might be thinking to yourself, "That's not threatening" I don't agree. You're bashing a talented actor and a show that's been on for decades. In effect, you're saying, "Don't watch this." And what happens then? The show goes off the air and people lose their jobs (but you'll find new ones for them, right?).

Goodness. Way down, are they? Dead, even? Well, you predicted Vanity Fair's demise in 2012 and we're all still thrilled to see it arrive in our mailboxes. And sources out there are speculating that you've rekindled this feud because VF didn't like your restaurant, Trump Grill, in a recent issue. One might speculate that you might be projecting your own insecurities about your lack of talent in any area (except bullying others which is, to use your words, "not nice") onto others who have actually had pretty viable careers based on their talent.

My therapist will be proud that I figured that out.

Oh, my. I could go on and on, but I actually have a job and need to get back to work. I have to finish what I need to do before my kids get home from school. I'm hoping that today isn't going to be one of those days when one of them comes home in tears, telling me that someone has picked on them or that they're scared. I hope neither of my daughters come home and tell me that someone out there called them fat. I hope my son doesn't come home and tell me that someone told him he has no talent.

But I'm comforted by the fact that if they do, I'll have the first couple to rely on for help and guidance.

Friday, December 2, 2016

I Feel Bad For You Because You're Married

Okay, so I don't really feel bad for you because you're married. I just wanted you to know what it feels like when us Singles get that sympathetic "bless your heart" look as soon as people find out that we're unattached.

At first I thought I needed to be careful about how I worded this blog. After all, I'm widowed and not divorced so I'm sure that someone is going to read this and think I'm glad my husband is dead.

Believe me...that's not the case.

But he is and that's the reality. And in the last 9 years and counting I've experienced casual dating, serious relationships, great first dates, horrible dinners that make me want to run screaming from a restaurant, two dodged marriage proposals, and a partridge in a pear tree. 

When I managed to untangle myself from the last serious encounter, I was so shell-shocked by the whole experience that I couldn't fathom getting into another relationship. Weeks turned into months which turned into years of being single. And since then, I've found a new love.


Now, I'm not completely alone. I do have three kids. But as far as a relationship goes...I'm blissfully, enthusiastically, not-a-moment-of-regret SINGLE.

I think a lot of your Marrieds and Committeds out there think that when Singles say we like being on our own, we're just saying that because we can't find a man (or a woman). I guess that could be true in some cases, but when I talk to many of my single friends we are so happy living in Singledom that we truly can't imagine living anywhere else.

I feel like I need to explain this because in the last two days I've received a phone call from a professional acquaintance who began the conversation with, "Please tell me you're seeing someone" and my mother telling me, "Don't worry. You'll find someone!"

Uh. I'm not worried.

Here's the deal. I've been around long enough to know that if I just wanted to get out there and find a man...I can. I'm not saying that to brag, but it's true. If you REALLY want to be in a relationship, you'll make it happen. But it's unfathomable to people that I don't want to.

So, I'm going to tell you the reasons why I'm enjoying this time in my life so much.

1. I hate it when people snore, but I snore too. So, I'm more than happy to curl up with my silent dog who overlooks this little issue. I sleep with 4 pillows, he sleeps with 2. We know our boundaries and give each other space. We both know we don't like to be touched while we sleep and he's the best about sleeping facing the other way so I don't wake up to morning breath. Best relationship I've had in years.

2. No one comes home and asks me why I haven't showered that day. Or why I worked in my PJs until 5 PM. I don't worry about weight gain or loss. I've completely changed my hairstyle without worrying what my significant other will say about it. All of this combined makes for a very liberating experience.

3. Girls Night Out? No problem! No, you don't have to hang on while I check with someone else's schedule.

4. Do I feel like cooking? Sure. Take-out tonight? No problem! I talked to another mom the other day who had gotten take-out for herself and her kids because her husband was out that night and she didn't feel like she needed to cook. She got my sympathetic nod.

5. I don't get frustrated watching someone sit on the couch playing solitaire on their phone while I clean the kitchen and get the kids ready for bed (I love my late husband, but I still get annoyed thinking about that). Yes, I know I have to do it all on my own. But I know what needs to get done and I do it without watching someone else relax while I sweat through the evening chores.

6. I. GET. THE. REMOTE. During Thanksgiving weekend, not one football game was on at my house and I watched Downton Abbey for 72-hours straight. Sure, my kids were irritated but I'm a parent. I'm supposed to annoy my kids.

7. Now, here's the hard one. Traveling. I would love to travel more and it's hard to think about going alone. But I believe that when the time comes, I will find ways to do it. I'll go with other friends or find a group. The point is, I'll be able to go where I want to go. I'm in control. I'll go on vacation and sleep all day if I want to or do other things that I want to do.

8. Freedom. I know lots of things are racing through your mind when I say that, but what I think of are really little things. The day before Thanksgiving I cooked all day and watched Christmas movies. It was as I was standing at my counter making Almond Joy Macaroons (highly recommend) that the thought "I'm completely happy right now" floated through my mind. Content. Doing exactly what I wanted to be doing in that moment. Alone and happy.

9. I believe I've grown more living in Singledom than I did as a Married. I've had to get creative about how I spend my time, how to make a living, and how to parent three kids alone. I've had to ask myself over and over again what I (me, myself and I) want out of life and I don't have to take anyone else into consideration. I think ahead to when the kids are grown and am already planning the things I will do to keep busy, keep growing, and stay independent (I don't want to be one of those clingy moms).

10. Every decision is mine and mine alone. Now, when I was first widowed, this scared the crap out of me. If I'm being honest, sometimes it still does. Thinking about getting the kids through college or handling a basement flood on my own is daunting to say the least. But in the last few years I've found a confidence I've never had before. I've realized that I can tackle this stuff. I've found professionals to call when I need them. I have a network of wonderful friends and family who help me as I would them. Yes, I miss how handy my husband was and sometimes I would REALLY LOVE to have that again, but I also don't miss having a plumbing issue that he would tell me he would fix when he got home...two weeks later.

11.  I was going to keep this list to 10, but I really have to add this one - you moms/wives out there will know what I'm talking about. There are times when I get my house completely to myself. When you're married...that is so rare. Sometimes all the kids will be at sleepovers or activities and I embrace that time. And you know you would too because I've talked to so many women who get almost teary when they think about it. It's like what Tina Fey said in Date Night: "I don't fantasize about being with another man. If anything I think about being alone, in a hotel room, with a Diet Sprite." I hear ya, sister. I love it, too.

I was talking to a friend's mom the other day and she spoke about her divorced sister who, she said, would probably never get remarried. "She's too spoiled" was her conclusion.

Now, I can't speak to that specific case, but I don't believe that being single makes you spoiled. What it does is make you MORE of who you actually are. And as time goes by, it gets harder and harder to think about being flexible and making compromises. I've gotten pretty used to doing things when I want to do them and how I want them done.

Since the 8th grade, I've almost always been in a relationship of some sort. I've always had a guy. For me, it came from a lot of insecurity. I needed the validation of being in a relationship. It wasn't until my mid-30s that I took the time to be by myself because, the truth is, it scared me. In fact, I almost made some pretty unwise commitments out of fear.

I wish I could have told my newly widowed self that I would be okay. I'm pretty good company to hang out with on a Friday night. I make myself laugh. I can cook. I can play a tune on the piano or sit quietly at a movie on my own and I don't annoy myself by talking through it. I'm a pretty good date.

For me.